Vodafone Group reportedly entered into talks to merge its UK operations with rival 3 UK, bringing together the third- and fourth-largest operators in the country and stepping up competition with BT Group’s EE and Virgin Media O2.

Financial Times (FT) broke the news, though noted the exact structure of what is being discussed was not revealed by its sources. The publication also reported in 2021 the duo had held talks about a tie-up, but a deal did not materialise.

It is, however likely Vodafone is seeking a deal following pressure from activist investor Cevian Capital, which has pushed the European heavyweight to do exactly that in national markets and simplify its business.

Even if there is a desire from Vodafone and 3 UK’s Hong Kong-based owners CK Hutchison to merge, any potential tie-up is likely to face intense regulatory scrutiny as it would reduce the number of major mobile players in the country from four to three.

Vodafone CEO Nick Read has notably been vocal about the need for the operator to take a proactive approach towards in-market consolidation.

Board appointment
In separate news, Vodafone announced the appointment of Stephen Carter, CEO of business group Informa and the first chief of Ofcom, to its board as a non-executive director.

Carter also served as chief of strategy within the UK government.